What is so important about finding beauty in our everyday living? At Art in Love, this is one of our foundational beliefs: we believe that beauty must be found in the ordinary or it will never be found.
But why does the ordinary matter so much?
Recently, Jeremy and I made the trek up to the Denver Art Museum and were delighted to find an exhibit that illustrates our hearts perfectly in this matter: Robert Benjamin’s “Notes from a Quiet Life.”
Benjamin is a resident of Fort Collins, Colorado and has been taking photographs since he was young. Interestingly though, in spite of his living in France and spending significant time in New York, the subjects of his show were family members: his wife, daughter, and son.
He photographed his children’s growing up years, expressions at the dinner table, sleeping in the car, playing in the yard. He photographed his wife in hiking boots. He photographed store windows and plants. What we find in this show is Robert Benjamin’s life in 20 prints.
He also talks about his art in a way that resonates with us. Of one of his pieces he says, “I thought beauty was something photographers ran away from, and I obviously couldn’t. So I didn’t. And love’s part of it. Love is not part of most people’s work. I’m amazed that every photographer doesn’t have rooms of pictures like this. How could you be a photographer and not take pictures of your wife, of your kids, of your wife naked, of your kids playing? I would think it would be unavoidable, but it’s not the case, oddly enough.”
In an explanation next to another piece, he tells us he carries his camera with him everywhere. He’ll wear it around his neck when he’s eating dinner, just so he can catch that particularly big bite his son takes while eating a hamburger. He wants his photographs to look familiar, to remind you of your own children, of your own wife or husband, of what it’s like to be a part of a household or to walk down the street in America.
He doesn’t take photos of movie stars, of wars, of defeat and failure, or of bankrupcy, racial discrimination, or hospital beds. While art that tells the truth about horrific circumstances or about the evil that lives in the heart of man is necessary, and sometimes even good, the art that most powerfully effects change is art created out of love for your subject and audience. Robert Benjamin understands that taking photographs in love, out of love, for love’s sake evokes greater change in a viewer than images that shock or cause feelings of horror and disgust.
Plus, he can’t help it. It’s all he can do to put down his camera when he goes to bed at night. He wants to remember the people, things, and moments that he loves, not those moments that made him weep or hate. What kind of people do we become if we dwell on the hateful things of this world and not on the good?
We believe Robert Benjamin gives his audience a great gift in this show by simply telling the truth about his life and the beauty that he found in it. We take our hats off to you, Robert Benjamin!
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Note: This show will be up at the Denver Art Museum through May 29, 2011, and we highly recommend you make a visit out to go see it! Also, all photographs in this post were cheap, iPhone-captured imitations of his beautiful originals on display at D.A.M.